I invite you in the name of the Church, to the observance of a Holy Lent.
As I read these familiar words from the Ash Wednesday liturgy in the Prayer Book, introducing the next new season, I am wondering: what will make these forty days “Holy?” The Prayer Book suggests several possibilities scrambled in the cross word above.
Perhaps I will choose a specific person (someone I don’t already pray for) and say a short prayer for that one every day. Maybe some honest self-examination about how my life is going and areas where I am “missing the target” may be in order. Fasting is an old-fashioned spiritual discipline seldom practiced any more. I could sure stand to turn some attention to my eating habits and try to practice giving up Dunkin’ Donuts, or sugar-laced foods. Replacing the hunger pang with some positive activity like humming a verse of a favorite song, or quoting lines from a poem or Bible verse might help. What small habit or less than healthy pattern in my life might I “turn around” to a more positive, constructive way?
Daughter Katherine always takes her Sunday service bulletin home, tucked in her purse, and carries it with her through the week. I wonder what it means to her, since she can’t read. I’m considering taking my bulletin home and keeping it with me during the week and making a point to re-read one of the lessons or words to one of the pieces of music. A lot of time and energy goes into creation of the bulletin. Let’s make good use of it to recall words of the Mass or various selections.
What could be helpful to my spiritual life by denying myself something? Could this mean letting someone else go ahead of me in line at Hannaford’s or in traffic… denying to be “first” or “best?” Attention to my spending habits or TV watching or Facebook surfing could increase my consciousness. And what is that annoying prayer bell the priest rings interrupting the flow of the liturgy on Sunday? A few minutes of deliberate silence during my busy day might give some space for the Spirit to speak in the still small voice she sometimes does. Have you ever chosen a mantra to repeat over and over, training the mind and body to quiet down? “Be still and know that I am God.” Meditate, focus, reflect. It’s good for the blood pressure.
Are these simple ordinary suggestions what will make Lent “Holy” for me? Gimmicks for helping me become more conscious of God’s presence with me can be helpful… if I try them. Choose one. And don’t be too hard on yourself. You have already been created in the image of God who is Love. All this fuss is only to remind you of this basic identity. You are loved. It isn’t necessary to work for or earn a Holy Lent. You’ve already been given the gift. This can be forty special days of re-learning how to receive it.
Beside you on the journey, Rick